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IAEA Confirms Iran Has Enriched Uranium to ‘Just Below’ Nuclear Weapons Grade

Technicians work at the Arak heavy water reactor's secondary circuit near Arak, Iran. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP
Technicians work at the Arak heavy water reactor’s secondary circuit near Arak, Iran. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP

The UN Nuclear watchdog confirmed on Tuesday that it detected particles of uranium enriched to 83.7 percent in Iran, just shy of the 90 percent needed to produce an atomic bomb.

"Discussions are still ongoing" to determine the origin of these particles, the IAEA said. Asked about the particles found in Iran, Tehran said that "unintended fluctuations" during the enrichment process "may have occurred."

The Agency also noted that the Islamic Republic's estimated stockpile of enriched uranium reached more than 18 times the limit set out in the 2015 accord between Tehran and world powers. It estimated Iran's total enriched uranium stockpile was 8,291 pounds as of February 12. The limit in the 2015 deal was set at 447 pounds of uranium.

In 2015, Iran reached a deal with world powers to limit the enrichment of uranium and allow IAEA inspectors to visit its nuclear sites, in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. But the deal stalled in 2018.

The IAEA report said that during an inspection "on 22 January 2023, the agency took environmental samples… at the Fordow (sic) plant, the analytical results of which showed the presence of high enriched uranium particles containing up to 83.7 percent U-235."

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